You Must Not Miss by Katrina Leno

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ARC given to me by my amazingly kind friend – Kayla! at Books & Blends!

“You felt so deeply, and for so long, that your very sadness grew limbs and walked away from you. You have moved mountains, Magpie Lewis, and you are only just getting started.”

Katrina Leno is truly a gift to this world, and I’m not sure what the world has done to deserve her, her words, or her stories, but I’m forever thankful. You Must Not Miss is a masterful expose on rape culture and the things that everyone is willing to do instead of believing girls. And this is one of the best things I’ve read all year.

You Must Not Miss is a story about a girl named Magpie who is a sophomore in high school, lives in a small town called Father in New England, and whose life has drastically changed in the past three months. The abandonment in this book actually hurts my soul to think about, but basically Magpie first found her father cheating, and then something horrible happened to her, and then her father left, and then her best friend left, and finally her sister left. Magpie is now living alone with her mother, who is an alcoholic and unwilling to contribute anything to the household. And, friends, Magpie’s grief tries to be so silent, but you will be unable to hear anything other than its loudness, and it’s one of the most heartbreaking reads I’ve endured.

“Last summer her sister had been home, her father had been discreet, her mother had been sober…”

But when Magpie discovers a portal to a new world called Near, where she controls what happens to everyone, she starts to carve out a little bit of her own happiness. And she even finds a new friend, named Hither, who helps her learn about this new world and the abilities at her fingertips.

Yet, we also get to see Magpie’s reality, trying to go to a high school where people hate her, and trying to navigate the halls to ignore someone who was her best friend for all her life. Someone who she loved unconditionally. Someone who knows the truth and refuses to believe her. But we also get to meet some of Magpie’s new friends who have also been ostracized; Clare, who is carrying her own grief, Brianna, who was humiliated once over something natural that she couldn’t control, Luke, who is bisexual, and even the start of a something more than friendship with a trans boy named Ben.

My full trigger warnings will be at the end of this review, but I am going to talk about sexual assault in this review, so please use caution and make sure you are in the right head-space before reading any further.

“I’ve thought an awful lot about how many times a girl has to say no before a guy really believes her.”

This book is a big fuck you to rape culture and I was living for every single word on every single page. People don’t even want to believe girls when they know it’s the truth, and that’s the saddest fact of them all. Sexual abuse and rape culture are normalized every single day, and every time some ignorant person talks about how much the victim drank, what the victim wore, what position the victim put themselves in, even how many times the victim said yes before saying no. When none of that matters, rape is rape, regardless of any light you want to shine on it to make excuses you use to try to put the blame on the victim. And, again, this only helps to normalize the horrible things people are justifying doing because powerful people prove that they are able to get away with committing these horrible acts over and over again. And it’s just going to continue if we don’t commit to breaking these horrible cycles.

There is just so much good in this story, and it’s heartbreaking, truly, but it’s such a real heartbreak that so many of us will experience, while so many of us wish for our own Near to escape into. While talking to my friend Madalyn, she said that Summer of Salt is a quiet book about rape culture, where You Must Not Miss is an extremely loud take on, and that’s honestly the most perfect sentence in the world to describe these two books that I gave five stars to. Because sometimes you need to yell when you live in a world that does everything to prove over and over again that it doesn’t want to believe you.

Lastly, this story, and the way it is told, also is loosely inspired by “One for Sorrow”, and a genius interpretation that Katrina Leno gave us of it. From the title, to the chapter headers, to secrets that are never to be told. Like, I stan a creative genius who renders me speechless, because holy shit did Katrina Leno execute it perfectly.

“If she has learned anything in life, it was that you could always do without people. You could always find a way to do without them.”

Overall, I’m going to be really honest with you; this ending is a wild one. I can see a lot of people loving it completely, and some not liking it at all. This book has so many speculative elements, and I adored it with the sum of my being, but I know that that isn’t for everyone. But this book just meant the world to me, and it was so powerful, and so thought-provoking. Truly, me and my friends spent hours talking about the ending of this book, and it just made me cherish the book even more. And I promise, I’ll carry this story and Magpie in my heart forever.

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Content and trigger warnings for talk of suicide, bullying, talk of past cheating, underage drinking, alcoholism, abandonment, talk of rape, talk of date rape, semi graphic oral rape, abusive friendships, abusive parents, and anxiety attacks.

Buddy read with Jane! ❤

 

If I’m Being Honest by Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka

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ARC provided by Penguin in exchange for an honest review.

“If I was going to commit to someone, I wanted him to be worth the worry, worth the part of me I was going to give him.”

Wow, this truly read like a gift from above. Like, I’m actually bitter than I didn’t have a YA contemporary story like this when I was in high school; because this was perfection. The Taming of the Shrew/10 Things I Hate About You loose retelling, starring a popular mean girl and a nerdy gamer boy, where they go to The Rocky Horror Picture Show together? I mean, it’s everything I’ve ever wanted in my adult life, too. I truly think this will be the best YA contemporary romance I’ve read all year, and these authors are now in a tier all on their own.

Cameron – A senior in high school who wants nothing more than to go to UPenn and to get a summer internship to work with her dad and finally have him be proud of her.

Andrew – Black, and has been friends with Cameron for a really long time, and they are running partners with each other.

Paige – A girl who goes to Cameron’s school, who for sure marches (and dances) to the beat of her own drum.

Brendan – Paige’s brother, who has kept to himself and his video games ever since Cameron called him a really horrible nickname that everyone at their school uses now.

And basically, Cameron is one of the most popular girls in school, and that nickname stuck because her word is law. She and her friend group are known for being rather ruthless, but Cameron is especially known for being completely unattainable and also a complete bitch. Yet, she has finally decided to make a move on Andrew, since she has been secretly crushing on him for over a year. But Cameron completely snaps at a girl who is foiling her moment of telling (and showing) Andre how much she likes him. After that, he can’t really see her the same way, so she vows to be nicer and prove to him that she can change her heartless ways. Yet sometimes, the person we need forgiveness from the most is ourselves.

But when starting the journey to become a nicer person, Cameron quickly realizes that the girl she was mean to is not going to make it easy for her, and she isn’t going to let her forget about the nickname she gave to her brother all those years ago. And friends, Brendan is my new favorite character in all YA literature.

But this is a book all about second chances and how it is never too late to be the person you want to be; just make sure you are becoming the person you truly want to be. And we definitely see Cameron learn this the hard way; from the having to take care of her mom, to the pressure and neglect her father shows her, to everyone in school thinking she’s a heartless bitch, while she is hiding everything that is going on in her life behind the scenes. I loved seeing Cameron’s journey, even if it was a bumpy road, and I just loved Cameron as a main character so damn much.

“The heart of every doubt and insecurity that’s ever weighed me down—that between the only two parents I have, nobody’s ever wanted me.”

Okay other random fangirl things that I adored: What do I talk about in all my reviews? My brother is my best friend in this entire world, and I love reading about strong sibling relationships, so Paige and Brendan really made me happy, especially since Paige constantly tries to be slick, but she truly was her brother’s wingman through and through, and that is so damn relatable. I also really liked how Cameron was older than Brendan. I feel like we never see stories where the girl is in grade higher than the guy, and I was here for it. The LA setting was so realistically and magnificently done. And lastly, I loved seeing all the imperfect family relationships. Cameron, Paige, and Brendan all have such different expectations on them; and all of them suck. I think this is just rep that isn’t really seen that much, especially in YA books, and I really appreciated how real it felt and the importance it played in the story.

“Katherine’s not the villain of the play. It’s the people trying to change her”

Overall, if you couldn’t tell, I just adored this. I immediately want to run to the store or my library and pick up their debut, Always Never Yours, because this book truly blew me and my expectations out of the water. And I fell so in love with these complex and realistic characters. Plus, you all know that I am always going to go completely heart-eyes over a video game playing soft boy, always. Oh, and unrelated, and this doesn’t impact my review whatsoever, but the authors are engaged to one another in real life, and that honestly makes me want to melt into a puddle of goo while finishing writing this review, because talk about partner goals.

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Trigger and content warnings for side characters cheating, talk of cheating in the past, and emotional and verbally abusive parenting.

Buddy read with Kayla! ❤

 

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

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ARC provided by Gallery Books in exchange for an honest review.

“That’s the point of luck: it happens when and where it happens.”

This is my favorite Christina Lauren book since Roomies! I’ll be honest, I wasn’t too in love with Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating or My Favorite Half-Night Stand, but this felt like the famous duo was back and resecured that special place in my swoon-worthy romance heart. This was so funny, this was so heartwarming, and since I’m leaving in a few weeks for Hawaii, the setting was pretty perfect for me, too! This is a hate to love, enemies to lovers, fake dating romance that features two characters who are forced to be around each other because their siblings are marrying each other.

Olive Torres – Biracial (white and Mexican), twin of the bride, has been unlucky her entire life.

Ethan Thomas – Brother of the groom, and Olive’s archnemesis.

“I want to say something sassy, but the only coherent thought that comes to mind is how insulting it is that eyelashes like his were wasted on Satan’s Errand Boy, so I just give a perfunctory nod and turn down the hall.”

And these two had a very rocky, and very confusing, first meeting. But they are trying their best to put their differences aside for this wedding, even if they are antagonizing each other every single chance they get. But the wedding takes an unexpected turn when everyone gets sick from the seafood buffet that was served, except for Olive and Ethan, since neither of them ate from it.

Their siblings insist that they take their Hawaii honeymoon, instead of letting the trip go to waste! And they both decide to, because once they get to Maui, they won’t have to see each other except for sleeping. That is, until Olive’s boss and Ethan’s ex fiancé happen to be at the same resort, and they are forced to play the part of happy newlyweds, because Olive doesn’t want to get caught using their sibling’s honeymoon by the resort and be forced to pay for it out of their own pocket, and Ethan doesn’t want his ex to see him single. And honestly? It was just the perfect fake dating setup, let’s be real.

“The problem with lying about relationships is that humans are fickle, fickle creatures.”

And I truly believe the banter in this book is the best that these authors have ever crafted. It’s smart, witty, and truly hilarious. I also just loved Olive and Ethan as characters so much, and I easily shipped them together; maybe harder than any Christina Lauren characters. The setting was perfect, the plot was genius, and this was just an overall really easy book to escape into and love.

But I am very curious to see how plus-sized reviewers are going to feel about the representation in this book. This is not my lane, so please know that while reading this paragraph, but this book puts a huge emphasis on how Olive thinks Ethan fat-shamed and body-shamed her. She constantly talks about her body, her curves, her stress baking and eating, and how things look on her body, and even tears clothing that’s too small for her, while always kind of comparing herself to her thin twin sister. Like, I was 100% sure Olive was plus-sized through the entire start of this book, but then, once they arrive in Hawaii, it seems like the only big and curvy thing about her is her breasts, which are obviously perfect! And then, at the end of this book it starts feeling like she and her thin sister are identical in bodies, too, and she also gets compared to Selena Gomez. Like, I just didn’t understand. It was like they wanted to have a plus-sized main character, but they didn’t want to actually go there or hire any beta readers. Like, again, this isn’t my lane, and I’m obviously not saying that thin people can’t have body dysmorphia or just have unhealthy relationships with food and their bodies, but the way this read personally felt bad to me. I just honestly think this book could be really triggering because of the emphasis it has on Oliva’s relationship with food and her inner monologue about her thoughts about her body, while also painting a very hazy picture of her actual body.

Also, there is a very small conversation between Olive’s family members questioning if a family member is queer, and… it was really badly done. “Because lesbians use those strap-on things” and apparently have short haircuts. And I completely understand it was supposed to be funny because older generations “don’t get it” or whatever, but it wasn’t cute; it was offensive and poorly done. And the mom saying she wishes she was born a lesbian, like… gag me with any spoon you can find. Like, it was so minuscule, and I have no idea why it was even part of the book or why editors thought it was a good thing to keep included, but it just made me side eye and put a bad taste in my mouth.

Okay, I know those last two paragraphs seem bad, and they are, I’m not making light of them whatsoever! But I will say that if you took those two elements out, this is a really good book. Like, the best I’ve read from Christina Lauren in years. It was laugh out loud funny, it was romantic and swoon worthy, and I really shipped this enemies to lovers dynamic. I never wanted to leave Olive, Ethan, or Hawaii, and I think this is just going to be the ultimate beach read of 2019.

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Content and trigger warnings for talk of cheating (not the main characters), A LOT of talk about food and bodies that I think could be potentially triggering, and the brief but questionable conversation about sexuality that I mentioned above.

The Bride Test (The Kiss Quotient, #2) by Helen Hoang

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ARC provided by Berkley in exchange for an honest review.

“It felt too big. At the same time, it didn’t feel like enough.”

The Bride Test is the most anticipated sophomore novel from Helen Hoang, AKA: the goddess who we do not deserve and who gifted us The Kiss Quotient! And this book is following a couple of characters who we originally met in that debut! I didn’t love this installment as much as I did The Kiss Quotient, but I still think that this book is a treasure and that Helen Hoang is a gift to the world.

And like The Kiss Quotient, this is an ownvoices novel, Helen is Vietnamese and is Autistic. And one of my favorite things about this book is seeing the difference of Stella, from The Kiss Quotient, and the main character of this book’s Autism. I think people just like to group marginalized people together and act like their experiences are all the same, and this author does such a wonderful job at truly showing the Autism spectrum and how vast it truly is. This book has a completely different Autistic main character, because everyone’s experiences are different, and I truly loved it more than I have words to express in this review.

Khai Vietnamese, Autistic, Michael’s cousin from The Kiss Quotient, living in California, and completely happy being on his own, especially after losing someone very close to him when he was younger. Even though that loss has made him think that he is incapable of love.

Esme – Biracial (Vietnamese and white), living in Vietnam as a cleaning woman, when Khai’s mom travels there to try to see if she can find a woman who would be compatible with her son. And Esme accepts because she is a single mom, living in poverty with her own mother and grandmother, and she thinks this is an opportunity to give them and herself a better life. Khai’s mother promises her a summer in California, where she can see if she can make Khai fall in love with her and marry her, but if not, she will return back to her family.

But with this set up, the power imbalance always is at the forefront. I always was questioning Esme and her feelings, because she has so much at stake. Also, Esme doesn’t tell Khai about her daughter for far too long, and that also felt extremely bad to me. And it’s always hard for me to root for a romance that is founded on a power imbalance and then also have it harboring such a big secret, especially after the two individuals are choosing to have sex. Now, I will say that the author does such an amazing job at putting consent at the forefront of this story constantly, yet I still could never find my footing on this shaking ground. And because of this, I can’t give this more than four stars.

I will say that, besides always putting consent at the forefront, this story has a lot of other amazing elements. Like, just seeing Esme in a foreign country, doing whatever it takes to make a better life for her loved ones, and seeing her getting the education of her dreams, I am soft and so happy. My favorite part of this book was easily the acknowledgements, where Helen really shares about her personal life and her mother’s personal experience being an immigrant and coming to American in search of a better life. I shed so many tears at how beautiful and powerful these final words were, and it truly was the cherry on an already amazing ice cream sundae.

Also, much like The Kiss Quotient, the family in this book is everything. Quan plays such a major roll in this story, and honestly was the shining light for me. And I am counting the days until we get his book next!

But this is a story about loss and love, yet also healing and becoming the person you want to be, no matter the circumstances. We get to see both Khai and Esme dealing with their own traumas, and healing separately, but we also get to see them building something really beautiful together; a future where they can be accepted and happy. And seeing them realize they were worthy of that love and acceptance all along? So damn beautiful.

“My heart works in a different way, but it’s yours.”

Overall, I just love being in Helen Hoang’s world. From the important elements and themes, to the beautiful diversity and inclusion, to some of the steamiest and most romantic scenes ever, these books are just really easy to fall in love with. I hope she never stops writing, and I hope Berkley signs her for five more books after these five, because she is a gift to the world.

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Content and trigger warnings for depiction of grief, talk of loss of a loved one, abandonment, and some talk of one’s body/body issues that I think could potentially be a little triggering,

Buddy read with Kathy from Kathy Trithardt & Julianna at Paper Blots! ❤

 

When Summer Ends by Jessica Pennington

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ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

“Why did we have to meet the summer before I move away?”

When Summer Ends is a really cute read that is going to be absolutely perfect for summer this year. This is a tale about two people learning who they are, and who they want to be, while also supporting one another, and maybe even falling for each other, too! But they also have to decide if this is just going to be a summer fling, because both of their lives are going to change drastically in three months! This was heartwarming and truly smile-inducing, and I think is really going to make an amazing beach read during the warmer temperatures!

Aiden – Starting pitcher for the varsity baseball team, but his true passion is drawing. He has felt an immense amount of pressure to live up to everyone else’s baseball expectations, but after a playing accident, instead of spending the summer away at baseball camp, he is going to be working at this dad’s company, River Depot. Which becomes extremely popular with tourists ever summer.

Olivia – Lives with her aunt, who just received an amazing job opportunity in Arizona, which means this could very well be the last summer in Michigan for her. Her estranged mother agrees to stay with her, while she tries to enjoy the summer working at none other than River Depot with Aiden.

And these two young adults quickly realize that they need to make the best out of these next three months of summer, because once it is over their senior years of high school will change everything.

My only real complaints are that the problems in this book really never felt like problems. They for sure felt like the set up of problems, but things always seemed to resolve quickly, and I never really felt scared about what was going to happen. And this is totally fine and valid, just not something that I completely enjoy reading. Also (and this kind of goes with what I just said), I just really didn’t love the storyline with Olivia’s mother, which was for sure such a big part of this story.

I will also say that I thought there was going to be hearing and visual disability rep in this book, which there was, but it was only temporary visual and hearing disabilities. So, I also felt a little down about that, but I didn’t have it impact my rating or anything like that. But please be warned if you are going into this also looking forward to reading about that representation.

But I loved the main characters, I loved seeing them rely on one another, I loved seeing them grow as people singularly, but also grow together, and I loved every scene with the two of them! I especially loved the Michigan setting, because there are few things more beautiful that Michigan’s lakes in the summer time, and it really made me feel like I was back home. Overall, I do recommend this one! And I can’t wait to pick up the author’s debut, Love Songs & Other Lies, very soon!

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Trigger and Content Warning for abandonment, neglect, and underage drinking.

Buddy Read with Felicia, Mir, & TBR & Beyond! ❤

❤ I also read this for Contemporary-a-thon!

 

Rayne & Delilah’s Midnite Matinee by Jeff Zentner

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“There’s something about witnessing something holy with someone you love, because you take that sacred thing and weave it, like a golden thread, into the fabric of your togetherness.”

Oh, friends! I feel so torn on this one. I do want to start this review off by saying that my dear friend Julie sent this to me, and a few of our other friends, as a traveling book so we could all record our thoughts and feelings with annotations! And, luckily for me, I was the last person to get the book, so I really loved being able to experience the story for myself, but to also see how my friends felt throughout their reading process, too!

But this is the very first book from Jeff Zentner that I’ve read, even though he has written so many of my best friends’ favorite book(s) of all time! And I’ll be honest, I was instantly completely captivated and enthralled by his writing and story crafting. I also love the Tennessee setting, the small town atmosphere, the poverty representation, and the spotlight on mental health more than I have words to express. But I was so torn on these two characters that it made for a truly strange reading experience that had me constantly conflicted at what to rate this story. (I’ll go into detail later in this review, but Delia’s storyline was easily five stars from me, where I still kind of want to hit Josie’s perspective with a one star!)

Rayne & Delilah’s Midnite Matinee is a story all about friendship, and growing up, and becoming the person you want to be, while surrounding yourself with people who unconditionally love you and who are willing to unconditionally support you. This tale focuses on two girls who have poured their hearts, their tears, their sweat, and many years into hosting Midnite Matinee, which is a show that is broadcasted on a few TV stations, where these two girls celebrate their mutual love for old horror movies. And these two girls, celebrating dated scary movies, have really carved out a piece of happiness for themselves and for so many watchers at home. Yet, their senior year of high school is steadily coming to a close, and they are both becoming more and more unsure of what the future of Midnite Matinee will be.

“Sometimes small and unspectacular things can be a universe.”

Josie / Rayne – Feeling the weight of her parents’ expectations, while also trying to balance her dreams of a career on television. She is very unsure which university she wants to go to; the one her parents want for her, which also has a once in a lifetime opportunity, or staying close to her hometown so that she can still make the show with her best friend.

Delia / Delilah – Living her life in fear that the people she loves will one day abandon her, after waking up to find her father gone when she was little. And she is trying to figure out if she is chasing her own dreams, or the dreams of a man who left her without a goodbye.

“Someday I’d love to know why the people with the least to lose are always losing the little they have.”

I would die for Delia. Completely. Her character was expertly done and she made me feel every emotion in the entire world. Josie? Not so much. I understand that you have to do what is right for you, and live the life you want to live, but Josie did so many things that I just thought were uncalled for and she really never seemed like a good friend or a good person, honestly.

There is also a romantic subplot with Josie and an MMA fighter who helped the girls on their show one night. His name is Lawson and I believe he is biracial (white and Latinx), and he was a joy to read. And between us? He could have done a whole hell of a lot better than Josie.

But we get to see both of these girls (and Lawson) got on a road trip to a horror convention, where they are going to put it all on the line, one last time, and try to make it big with their show. But during the trip, both girls learn a lot about themselves and the wounds they were pretending were healed.

I really loved how this book constantly talks about medication and normalizes the use of antidepressants. This is a constant theme for Delia and her mother, and this book also touches on how mental health issues can be passed down, and how it is important to make sure you are putting yourself and your mental health first and getting treatment.

“It wasn’t a perfect day, but it’s worth hanging on to.”

I will say that this book took a really unrealistic and very unexpected turn towards the end of the novel and it left a really weird taste in my mouth. It honestly felt straight up out of a cartoon or something, and I feel like it felt so out of place compared to the rest of the book.

I also feel like there was a last minute addition to this story that was very reminiscent of a John Green tearjerker moment, and… I don’t think the book needed it. Both girls (one likable, one not) and their struggles were valid and heartfelt enough to not add something that felt so out of the blue just to make the reader cry.

Overall, I really did enjoy this one. And I never really wanted to put it down. But that random, mustache twirling villain, and Josie being truly an insufferable character, I just can’t give this book more than a three star rating. But I am very excited to see what Jeff Zentner does next, and I am really looking forward to going back and reading his back-list, because this book truly held some of the most beautiful writing and a truly unforgettable character who I will carry with me forever.

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Content and trigger warnings for heavy abandonment, grief depiction, depression depiction, talk of suicide, brief mention of cancer, brief mention of loss of a loved one, and food and weight related things that could be potentially triggering.

A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti

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“She survived something big, and when you survive something big, you are always, always aware that next time you might not.”

I can truly say, with every single ounce of my heart, that this is one of the best books I’ve ever read in my entire life. It’s so quiet, but so loud. It’s so heartbreaking, but so healing. It’s so impactful, it’s so powerful, and it’s completely and utterly unforgettable. I truly recommend this story with my entire soul. A Heart in a Body in the World is now one of my favorite books of all time.

On the very surface, this is a story about a girl who is feeling the astronomical weight of guilt and grief. She lives in Seattle, and one day while she is feeling particularly powerless over something that happened nine months ago, she decides to run to Washington D.C. regardless of how long it will take. Her family is a little shocked, but very supportive, so she begins her healing journey the only way her body and heart knows how; by running and pushing her body to the limits that her mind is forced to relive every single free moment. And watching her reclaim what was taken from her is one of the most powerful things I’ve ever read in my entire existence.

Okay, so I went into this story knowing what the main theme was, and it did not hinder my enjoyment whatsoever. Yet, I have seen so many reviewers say that this story is best to consume not knowing, and that they consider the central plot to be a big spoiler. So, please use caution reading the rest of this review, because I am going to talk about what this book is about, and I don’t want to spoil you if you believe that it could be a potential spoiler! But regardless, this is one of the best books I’ve ever had the privilege of reading, and I implore you all to pick this up when you are able to, especially if you are a woman living in the United States.

“Danger can seem far away until the sky grows dark, and a bolt of fury heads straight toward you.”

A Heart in a Body in the World is a story about toxic masculinity and gun violence, and how that can be one of the most dangerous combinations that American women can ever face. Especially when we live in a country where it is easier to buy a gun than to vote. Especially when we live in a country that normalizes teaching young kids to hide under desks in the event of a school shooter. Especially when our country proves over and over that it doesn’t think we are worth protecting and that our safety isn’t worth more than an assault rifle. And especially when we live in a world that conditions girls to be scared to say no to boys, and that internalization is passed down every single generation, to both girls and boys, to truly create the most evil and most scary cycle.

This is the best depiction of grief and guilt I’ve ever read in my entire life. I could feel the weight Annabelle’s grief, and it constantly felt like it was going to bury me. This book took so much out of me, but in the best way possible; in the realest way possible. And violence took everything from Annabelle because we live in a world where it can be deadly to reject men.

Annabelle did everything right. She reached out. She asked for help. She told people. And it didn’t help, and these kinds of stories prove over and over again that it won’t help. But we live in a world where proving your masculinity and power will always be louder than a teenage girl asking for help. Being nice and being kind can potentially lead to someone taking absolutely everything from you.

Okay, I know this is a really heavy review, and I’m sorry for that, but this book honestly just does such an amazing job depicting so many young women’s realities. But to end on a sweeter note, the family dynamic in this novel is also a damn masterpiece. You all know that strong sibling bonds (especially with little brothers) is my favorite thing in books! And also, the relationship that Annabelle has with her Italian grandfather, and the unconditional love he shows her over and over again, made me so damn soft.

Overall, this is one of the most important, meaningful, and impactful pieces of literature I’ve ever read in my entire life, and probably ever will read in my entire life. I recommend it with every single fiber of my being. And I will truly carry this book in my heart forever. Also, if you want to see me cry over the perfection of this story, and how sad I feel to live in a country that doesn’t protect me, watch my day seven contemporayathon vlog!

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Content and trigger warnings for PTSD depiction, panic attacks, grief depiction, loss of a loved one, death, murder, stalking, mention of cancer, self-induced harm via running, and any and everything surrounding the gun violence in America.

Buddy Read with Lea from Drums of Autumn! ❤

❤ I also read this for Contemporary-a-thon!